Archives for posts with tag: Riding

I knew this was a possibility as one of my riding buddies MG was running the Sydney Half Marathon this morning, but my ride route this morning was interrupted by the Sydney Marathon. I took off early as I needed to be back home at a reasonable time. As I got to the city I realised that my desired route would be heavily interrupted. There were road blocks everywhere and the police were manning the on ramps to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Western Distributor. I asked one of the officers whether I could go through the road closures and he gave me the OK, but he could not guarantee my return route. This gave me the opportunity to set my fastest time up a completely closed Oxford St in Sydney’s Inner East.

I planned on putting down a couple of laps in Centennial Park, but it was closed off to cars and cyclists too. So I stuck to the roads and headed to see the morning at Coogee Beach and Maroubra Beach. I have only recently discovered the riding around the roads of Coogee Beach, and they are steep. There are a couple of 16% pinches, short and nasty, but I now have a pretty good base off the back of the Gran Fondo. Still I am not a climber and hauling my body up those inclines gets me easily into the red zone. Th final destination before turning back was La Perouse, and the weather was perfect. There were fishing boats heading out of Botany Bay no doubt to take advantage of the seasonal migration. I headed back and tried to put the hammer down at times, until I hit the runners.

Sydney Marathon 2013 - 1

While this photo shows some of the marathon runners, the first athlete that I saw was the fastest wheelchair marathon runner. He was motoring! So I didn’t have a chance to whip out my phone to snap a shot. It was at this point near the Sydney Cricket Ground that my route was heavily interrupted, and a pretty good excuse if you ask me.

I rode further up ANZAC Parade back to the city and then hit a complete road block. This is where I passed the runners who were doing the shorter 9km run. These guys were not the prime marathon athletes but they were giving it a good crack – respect!

Sydney Marathon 2013 - 2

I was able to get back to Oxford Street by riding on the footpaths and then eventually past a couple of other police officers who were on bicycles. They gave me the all clear and I was able to return home. I planned to knock up some 60km, but grabbed only 43km in the end. I got to see the Sydney Marathon, and back home watch the winning athlete cross the line in front of the Sydney Opera House – for the record it was Kenyan runner¬†Willy Kibor Koitile in 2 hour 13 minutes and 44 seconds. And there were 35,000 other runners who enjoyed a bit of tarmac in sneakers to interrupt my ride too ūüôā

 

A colleague of mine at work, who is not a cyclist, wanted to understand how I could sit on a bike for hours at a time with my mates doing the same. He doesn’t understand my (and all other cyclist’s) two wheel passion. I don’t mind that as he is passionate about different sports and activities and we share a common passion of seeing our boys do activities. But when he asked what we talk about when I go for a ride, that got me thinking.

Even when riding in a group I spend a lot of time concentrating on… well riding. Am I breathing right, am I pushing myself enough, what is coming up next on the road or trail, are there other obstacles that could come from left field and cause me troubles. But invariably there are times when the route is long and flat and you simply have to stay upright and it gives you the opportunity to have a chat. Quite often we are giving each other a heads up or instructions on what is ahead or an obstacle / pothole. We push each other by saying things like “time to hit this hill”, or “there is a Strava segment ahead that I am going to go for.”¬†Invariably I am catching up on what has been going down with my mates. Usually there is a funny story or three, and lots of stuff to basically catch up on.

And the tall stories are sometimes quite humorous. My brother and his crew down in Melbourne who I always try to ride with every opportunity I can are hilarious. There is always a clanger that comes out and when he spoke to me earlier in the week and told me what happened last weekend I was nearly crying in laughter. It has been quite cold of recent months (being Winter and all) and there has been a bit winter clothing fashion parade going on with new gear on show. The response is usually of admiration to a cool new piece of clothing, jacket, or something skin tight that could keep a body warm at minus 10 degrees Celsius. But when one of the crew (who I shall not name) had forgotten to wash his thermal bib-tights rocked up in colourful knee high woolen socks along with his regular bib shorts – it was on. The banter quickly turned to teasing and ribbing for said cyclist’s fashion sense. The punchline was when he was appointed the title of Liberace (I am sure that if Liberace were still alive that he would have been mortified to have been associated with this crime against lycra). But the joke that had me coiled over in laughter was that they dished out a further name appointment and decided as a group that from that point his bike would be known as the “Candelabra”.

That’s right, not “Cancellara” – but “Candelabra”!

No doubt the resemblance between the two items, bike frame and candelabra, will resonate for years to come.

So yes, we cyclists might go for many long moments in silence just hammering on the pedals. But when we chat – it sometimes produces hilarity. As for our riding mate… it is going to be difficult for him to shake the moniker and there is absolutely no chance of the bike losing its new name.

I love going down to Melbourne, for a host of reasons. The main reason is to visit family, but my brother and I have a shared love of cycling. I have ridden with him and his riding crew quite a few times, and this weekend just gone gave me another opportunity to indulge in our shared passion. But best laid plans came undone from the time I touched down. No QANTAS didn’t lose my bike, but my brother was suffering from a serious case of man-flu – enough to keep him off the bike.

So it would be me riding solo to meet up with his riding crew. I knew that riding in Melbourne would require me to come prepared. This meant thermal tights and lots of layers. I was just hoping for little wind and no rain. Little did I realise that the city was experiencing its coldest weather spell of the year. Saturday morning and I was up at 6:15 to suit up for the ride. Did I say it was cold?

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Light on, liquid bottled, layers on, I stepped outside and BAM – it was 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). It was bloody cold. The normal gradual warm up for the first few kms was thrown out the window, I was spinning 110 rpm just to get warm. By the time I got to Beach Road (about 8km from my brother’s house), my average speed was up over 33kph. I couldn’t feel my toes, it was soooo cold! Getting to Beach Road on the weekend is always a sight. Waiting for the lights to turn green I estimated that at least 200 cyclists had ridden through the intersection in both directions. There wasn’t an event on, this is just Melbourne on the weekend – Australia’s home of amateur cycling. I would eventually ride past thousands of cyclists on this trip, and it makes you happy seeing so many people enjoying their two wheel freedom. They have even implemented a clearway on both sides of the road on the weekend mornings in acknowledgement of all the two wheel traffic. I rode the further 8km to Black Rock to rendezvous with my brother’s riding crew. First up was Mark and his wife Leslie, joined by their friend Darren who I would ride with for the first time. Darren had just acquired a new BMC Racemachine RM01 – SWEET! Next came Big Dave, who is always good for a laugh. He proceeded to remark that he thought he looked like Robin Hood in his winter tights and that it was so cold he nearly grabbed his skis instead of his bike. Next came Pete who had been off the bike for some time since his big ride on the 3 Peaks challenge. Last to arrive was Tall Dave, on his custom Ridley uber fast bike. One of the other regulars, Pete’s brother in-law Carl, had already set off to do some “secret training”. The group was assembled and we weren’t getting any warmer so off we went.

It was good to catch up with the crew most of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. Normally we have Big Dave’s wife Sue riding with us too, but she had succumbed to an injury with her hamstring. Bad enough to have her seeing an osteopath for treatment and no chance to go out for a ride. I have to admit that both Sue and Leslie are pretty impressive on two wheels. If we keep a pace no more than 30kph (18 1/2 mph) they can keep pace with us the whole way. I got the chance to chat with all the crew and catch up on what I had missed. They proceeded to tell me that my brother has been conspicuously absent from the weekend rides of late, so much so that they suspect that he has a mistress named Donna (which is a mis-spelling of doona, the Aussie word for duvet or quilt, which he has used as the excuse for being under rather than on his bike). I asked Mark where we were headed and he told me Two Bays. A quick calculation in my head, and I figured that I might be on a century ride for the day – cool. The ride to Two Bays involved riding down to Frankston and then climbing up the hills in the back country to get to Mt Eliza. The climbing was decent enough to challenge us, and I wanted to lead out as much as possible. Up the first steep incline, Mark wanted to show off his new Look bike and put the hammer down to go past me. Tall Dave followed him up, coming alongside of me. As we neared the crest, Tall Dave turned around at the same time as Mark began to peter out. Their wheels overlapped and then Tall Dave touched his front wheel against Mark’s rear. It all happened in slow motion in front of me, and Tall Dave nearly caught it but had lost too much momentum and went down. This triggered off a set of events that would unfold later in the day – but we were not to know at the time. Tall Dave had gone down reasonably hard on the palm of his hand – he is tall after all and fell from a greater height than I would have. He also bashed up his elbow, and his knee was letting out a bit of Claret. But he told us he was alright and he rode on gingerly never getting to the front again. We continued riding up the hills and Mark was telling me about the virtues of his new Look machine. It was at this point I heard someone yell out, “C’Mon Boys, get moving!” It was Leslie. Yes the sole lady rider in the group laid down the gauntlet. So off I went. I pulled up a few kilometres up the road to allow everybody to regroup and continue on to Mt Eliza together.

As we came up to the roundabout with Two Bays Road we saw Carl returning from his secret training run. He proceeded to swing around and join us and it was great to see him again too. I had a bit of a chin wag with him too on his Specialized speed machine. His brother in-law Pete came up behind me and told me to get on it again, but for a different reason – Carl’s only Strava KOM was on that stretch of road and he wanted me to go for it. But Carl took off like a bat out of hell and it was not going to be. My favourite part of this ride is the descent down Canadian Bay Road back to the Nepean Highway – it is a long descent with a left-right chicane down the bottom that reminds me of “Eau Rouge” at Spa-Francorchamps Race Course in Belgium. This was only the third time I had ridden this descent, so I didn’t go full belt and followed Pete who is a crazier downhill rider than I am. Getting back to the Nepean Highway we pulled up for a coffee at around 60km into my ride. This was needed as we were still in the throws of some very cool temperatures.

Did I say it was cold? I tried to wolf down my carbohydrate muesli bar, which was so cold that it was as hard as a toffee. We couldn’t have drunk our coffees any quicker because we needed to get back on the bikes to keep warm. A quick diversion down Old Mornington Road gave the guys another opportunity to stretch out their legs on one of their favourite descents, before we returned back to the Nepean Highway. My second favourite part of this ride is the downhill bombing of Oliver’s Hill where I always clock over 60kph. Back at Frankston, Tall Dave pulled the pin complaining of a sore neck. This was the second indication that things were not right for him. He gave his wife a call and told us to ride one because she would come and pick him up. We rode back at pace, and the weather was finally becoming perfect. The bay was flat as a tack, no wind, and the mercury was creeping back up over 7 degrees Celsius on its way to the 11 degrees that it would hit at the end of the ride. I stayed on the front setting the pace up around 33-35kph and I felt very strong. I looked back a couple of times to see that I was leading out a longer train with a few other groups tacking onto my tail. That was cool by me, because I was feeling strong. Gradually the rest of the crew all ducked off to their respective home destinations and I left Mark, Leslie, and Darren as the last ones as we neared Black Rock. They wanted a second bout of coffee, but for me I wanted the century. The remain 16kph I rode mostly at my own pace solo at or around 30kph. Glancing down at my Garmin I was keeping 28.5kph (about 17.7kph) for the whole ride, and I just wanted to maintain that pace. The challenge was going to be all the intersections and now busy Saturday traffic coming back into the city. But as I went through St Kilda on the way back to South Yarra I jumped back on the pedals and hammered it back to my brother’s place. Rounding the corner into his street ticked over the century mark at 100.1km.

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I felt very strong throughout this ride and was quite chuffed, and hungry, by the end. This is the second century ride that I have done in as many months but this one was definitely quicker and stronger. Now I have to maintain this base and build on it through the rest of the winter so I come into September with good lungs and legs. BTW – the average temperature for the whole ride ended up being 4 degrees Celsius. Here is the route that my Garmin captured.

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As for Tall Dave his fall might have been a small blessing. He went to the hospital to get checked out thinking that the accident, and it was a genuine accident because these guys are an experienced and safe bunch to ride with, might have caused his neck aches. The diagnosis was a lot more serious than we could have imagined. He had an aneurysm developing at the base of his skull. He was moved straight away to the best hospital in Melbourne, but we are all concerned with the seriousness of his condition. They have not operated on him yet, and will be conducting an angiogram tomorrow to determine the extent of the condition. It would appear that this had been developing for some time. My brother, the rest of the riding crew, and I are all concerned about what happens next. I could write something flippant like “hope he gets back on the bike soon” but I know how serious this is – and it is not about the bike. The good thing is they have detected it now and he is in good hands. I love riding and travelling, but I also like life and want my friends to remain healthy to enjoy their lives too.

A couple of my fellow bloggers have got me revved up to get some kilometers in mid-week. The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a struggle as I have thrown myself into a new job and quite frankly I have been exhausted. But that all just sounds like excuses! So I took the road steed out for a spin tonight. I was prepared for the ride, with a new night light (a NiteRider Lumina 650 which is a little beast of engineering), bidons full, and three layers of clothing – I was raring to go. The only hitch was the bout of man-flu I had been carrying since the weekend, but this was not going to stop me. When I stepped out into the night I was greeted with a bout of cold winter air. In Sydney it never gets as cold as in North America or Europe, but it was quite fresh. It was not until I got back and loaded my ride up to Garmin Connect and Strava did I pick up how cold it was – an average temperature of 9 degrees Celsius (or 48 degrees Fahrenheit for my fellow US riders). Fresh!

The Joy of Riding at Night

There are quite a few advantages of riding at night, particularly in Sydney. For starters the traffic is at its lowest, and in Sydney this is a real problem for cyclists because for whatever motorists are quite aggressive towards two wheeled road users (though this is improving). On routes where you mix with pedestrians, like some of the bike / walking tracks on my local runs, there are fewer of these people too. In the Winter months, there are even fewer pedestrians about. At night, you are seen better because you are lit up like a Christmas Tree – albeit one that is travelling at times up to 50km/hr. And you don’t have the sun beaming down on you, further burdening your attempts to get ahead of the dehydration curve. Finally, the best advantage is that you get a pretty good night’s sleep after a good workout in the saddle. On the other hand there are a few disadvantages; it gets cold, your visibility of the road surface at night is much poorer, and sometimes you have to avoid the odd pedestrian who has enjoyed an evening fueled with alcoholic beverages instead of electrolyte fluid. At night and in the cold you have to maintain your hydration discipline as well, just because it is not hot does not mean you aren’t sweating and losing valuable minerals.

Getting Stronger – Strava is not so Evil After All

Even though I haven’t got that many big rides in over the last few weeks, I still feel myself getting stronger on the pedals. My post ride ritual now is hydrate, carb up, and upload my ride. I religiously upload my rides now, and ensure that on every ride I have my heart rate monitor on too. When I first started blogging I posed the question Is Strava Evil? I now don’t think it is, because it is critical in telling me how I perform on my regular rides. If I am feeling on it like I did tonight, I push it and go for broke on a segment that I know about. Tonight I had 6 segment PRs, and that is giving me incentive to go harder next time. A couple of the PRs were on a few of the torture pinches that I throw into my shorter rides. Two of these pinches are back to back over a 1km stretch with the first peaking at 17% grade and the second at 16%. These pinches are my measure of form, and getting ready for the big rides in September and October will see plenty of climbing up these. Tonight’s ride was short, 23km, but I got in just under 400m of climbing and another hour in the saddle. Big riding this weekend when I pay my brother in Melbourne a visit and go for a spin with his riding crew – maybe even a century ride for giggles.

Can’t wait for the weekend.

This weekend knocks on the head my first organised ride for the year – the Ride Around the Lake 2013. This is my favourite ride of the year because of several things:

  1. It is a great community organised ride to help a local charity – the My Place youth housing supported by the Lighthouse church that helps get disadvantaged youths in the area on their own two feet.
  2. The location is great! Riding around Lake Illawarra for the majority of the route and at the perfect time of the year as well.
  3. It has some cool segments on the route; The Koonawarra descent (downhill bombing), The Macquarie Rivulet run (closest thing to single track I have experienced on a road bike), The Mount Warrigal bike track (hilly and windy with a great view of the lake).
  4. It is not an easy ride. While it is only 40km, it is technical with plenty of turns and there are some steep uphills. There are also some “cyclocross” style negotiations requiring you to hop on and off the bike do a bit of gravel riding.
  5. It is the best signposted ride I have done, with awesome volunteers along all parts of the route, and
  6. It is a chance for my wife and I to ride with my Aunt who lives down in Wollongong.

It is not a race, but the serious riders get the chance once clear of the recreational riders to have a real go. This was the fourth time that I had participated in this ride and I decided that I was going to try and hammer it! My Aunt had a nasty off a few weeks back colliding with another rider who moved off his line, so unfortunately it was the first time in 4 years that she had to opt out. So with the blessing of my wife (thank you, thank you, thank you) we agreed to ride each at our own pace.

Ride Around the Lake Ride Route 2013

I set off on the 7:15am start, but was near the back of the group as we got there just after 7:00am (try getting ready for a ride when you are trying to take care of a two year old). I was caught up behind quite a few of the recreational riders who were having a good time, but not the kind of riders you want to be next to in a group – if you know what I mean. So when I finally got clear of these guys and gals after the first 3km riding away from the bay, I was able to get in the groove and settle in to a 33kph (20mph) pace. By that point, all the other serious riders had long got the jump on me but I didn’t know how many. What was strange was that there was no-one in front of me bar one guy on a road steed a few hundred metres up the road. I chased him down and overtook him. He jumped on my rear wheel and kept up with me for the next 5km or so, but when we turned back towards the bay crossing over the freeway he dropped off.

I saw the next rider ahead and chased him down too. He was an older guy who was turning over the big chainring with quite a bit of power. I didn’t catch him until we got to the steep suburb climbing at Kanahooka. After I passed him there was no-one in front my sights. This was not a surprise as this is where we were constantly turning left – right and going up and down over the undulating hills. Some of these pinches were up around 7-8% gradient, and it is¬†weird¬†because you cannot get into a groove. The big climb comes at about 17km in, but having ridden this ride 3 times before I knew what the reward was – downhill bombing at close to 70kph (43mph). You could possibly bomb it down quicker on the descent if it were not for the nasty gutter about 20cm deep at the end of the run. It was at that peak of that climb that I saw the next two guys in front of me. I chased the first guy down and passed him and then caught up with the next as we hit the Macquarie Rivulet. I didn’t realise until I uploaded the ride to Strava that I ended up riding the 9th fastest time ever along this segment at 36.5kph (22.5mph) – and the quickest on the day. It was when I got to the end of this bike track that I saw my next and what would end up being my last target, one of the local girls from the Illawarra triathlon club. She was riding on an awesome new Trek Speed Concept 9.8 WSD, which is an $8,000 bike here in Australia. Here is where my pig-headed bloke attitude came in as I thought to myself “I can’t let this chic on the cool bike kick my butt!” So I put my head down and started churning over the pedals at 95-100rpm. As I passed her on one of the straight roads through Oak Flats at around the 20km mark, little was I to know that this was the last rider that I would pass for the rest of the ride. I got on it and tried to keep the pace up and she was right on my tail. It wasn’t until we had to cross the bridge (unclip, ride, unclip again, gravel, climb, skinny 23mm rear wheel shanking all over the place on gravel – FUN!) over the creek at Koona Bay that I was able to get away from her and just ride.

The rest stop was 23km in and I just blew through this, after all I had enough water and electrolyte to sort me out for the ride. Then it was the bizarre sensation of riding by myself for the final 15km or so. Now I know a little what it feels like in a breakway when I am watching the races on TV. You are riding by yourself, trying to keep the hammer on tap and constantly checking your trip computer for speed and cadence. My average speed was nudging up to 28kph for the whole ride and I was keeping over 85rpm. As I neared the finish of the ride a couple of the volunteer “cheerleaders” who were dressed as Supergirls didn’t realise that I was coming in to finish and rushed to usher me to the line. I think I was the first to cross the line, ¬†as I didn’t see any other riders at the Illawarra Yacht Club finish line.

It was a perfect day for riding, and the ride organisers had a band at the finish as well as a stall for coffee, bacon and egg rolls, and play areas for the kids. All the guys I passed came in over the next 10-15 minutes after me. I was able to keep 27.8kph for the entire 42km which given that I rode in no-one’s draft for the entire ride, I had to stop at two traffic lights, the many switch backs, and the clip out and ins – not bad really. I ended up doing the 5th fastest time ever for the ride circuit, but I was a bit miffed that there were two others who recorded faster times on the day (with a further two ahead of me from 2011). They must have got cleaner runs at the start than I did as there was two other start times after I took off. But all up pretty chuffed and I am finally getting my legs in. My wife came in at just over 2 hours for the 42km and had a pretty good ride herself. She got the chance to ride with a couple of others who kept her pace and enjoyed it – even if her regular ride buddy (my Aunt) was laid up on the recovery bench.

I didn’t stop and take any pics, but my wife shot off two on her phone from the rest stop. Magic spot for a ride.

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The more serious rides are coming later in the year in September, October, and November. I am working on building my base now and might even plan an overnighter with a couple of mates. That is to come, but first the Hawaii trip!

My trip to Hawaii is less than a week away now, and I am pumped. My brother’s future brother in-law has spurred me on and hired a road bike for the week in Maui. I have done the same, and now I am looking forward to doing some cool riding on the island. I am going to have to bring my pedals from my road bike along with my riding kit. As this is my first time to Hawaii, I have been doing some reading up on other blogger experiences of riding in Maui. It is some very interesting reading, particularly reading people’s accounts of climbing the Haleakala volcano – the longest climb in the world. At over 3000m, I don’t have the legs at the moment to attempt this ride, nor probably the time. Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian pro-peloton rider and current Giro d’Italia champion holds the record at some 2 hr 32 min. But that was a ridiculous ride, where he pumped out over 350W of power for the whole climb. Most of the other cyclists that I am reading about are doing it somewhere between 4-6 hours. Below is the video of the Ryder’s assault on the Volcano in an attempt to beat his boss Jonathan Vaughters then record.

But I am getting the kms in the legs. I have racked up a couple of 60km rides and regularly now churning out a couple of quick 40km spins during the week too. I love this time of year riding in Sydney, perfect weather and fewer riders, walkers, and runners out on my routes. If I ever decide to go for a night spin now there are few people around the traps.

But back to my Maui riding coming up. The big gotcha that a lot of the cyclists talk about is the huge tradewinds that blow across the island pretty consistently. What they most talk about is planning the rides so that the routes are mostly in the shadow of the two volcanoes. It might take a bit of driving to get to the start of some of the rides, but it beats riding into the ridiculous headwinds that these tradewinds produce on a return leg. There are some fairly good roads, and a few that follow the coastline too. I am looking to get in quite a few long rides and hopefully a bit of climbing too. While Haleakala might be out of the question, there may be hope to ride some of the valleys up Puu Kukui. Here is hoping for 7 days of sunshine, cool weather and glass smooth roads (though I will settle for 7 days of good riding).

Maui tradewinds

One other thing that I am pumped for is my favourite organised ride of the year (even if it is the shortest), the Ride around the Lake down at Lake Illawarra. At only 40km long I am going to try and smash it, and believe I have the legs for it this year to have a bit of fun. I got a 42km ride in this morning with one of my riding buddies MG and felt some good power in the legs. I just need to shake off my annoying congested lungs.

I can’t wait to fly out next week!

Tonight I, along with my father and an old friend from school, had the pleasure of attending a great event at the Alliance Française de Sydney Рan evening with Christian Prudhomme, General Director of the Tour de France. The talk was hosted by both the Alliance Française and SBS Television which is the home of cycling on Australian television and they have been broadcasting the Tour de France (TDF) to Australia for the last 17 years. Mike Tomalaris was also in attendance and introduced Prudhomme to us. Both him and Tomalaris are journalists by profession, so there was a common bond that they both shared Рparticularly since both had spent so much of their work life focused on the TDF. As it turns out, they are also both the same age. I believe Prudhomme was in Australia to talk with the broadcasters vying for the TV rights to broadcast the TDF after the contract with SBS expires in 2017. I only hope that ASO (the organisers of the TDF) realise that there are no other broadcasters aside from SBS in Australia who will show the same passion and do the race justice in their broadcast.

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It was a fascinating talk, and it was amazing to see that man in person. As the General Director of the Tour de France, he is one of the most important people in global sports management and what he says on TV has implications to not only cycling, but France as well. So seeing his persona in real life versus the media conscience presentation that he must provide when formally interviewed was a real surprise. He was genial, honest, and inspiring. Inspiring in that when asked about what are his goals for managing the TDF his response was simple “to make kids dream about being the champion of Le Tour!” This was a grown man talking about his humble goal of inspiring the next generation to achieve something.

He covered a range of other topics with the unavoidable topic of doping in cycling. Prudhomme is a staunch opponent to doping in sport and described the challenges for ASO having to operate within the regulatory framework established by the UCI. He noted that most other sports have chosen not to be as fervent in tackling drugs in sport, to which he was disappointed. Prudhomme was also pragmatic in the ability to completely weed out the drug cheats, noting that in every facet of life there are cheats – so practically cheating will never be completely eradicated. But he reaffirmed his continued commitment to tackling doping, and the need for cooperation from all the sports and international federations to consistently apply the rules.

We got the chance to ask a few questions covering many aspects of his job and the organisation of the TDF. I even got to ask a question regarding the selection of the teams for the wildcard places and pressure in the promotion of the sport globally. When some of the questions regarding the broadcast of the race were asked we got a very interesting perspective from him. He spoke about how the TDF and the last 100 years of French history were inextricably intertwined.

But what was more remarkable for me was his perspective on the social responsibility that the race organisers had in the promotion of France and its regional communities. Prudhomme told one story about how a few years back one of the stages finished in a a little known small town in the centre of the country. In recent years, this small town had suffered a decline in its local economy having relied heavily on the wood industries. With close to 25% unemployment, it was only when the TDF traveled through that it put the town on the map. Since then, the publicity boost that it received has given it a much needed lift and a small turnaround in fortune.

He spoke about how if anyone was serious enough they could put a stop to the race by blocking the route. But such is the passion of the TDF in France that no-one has done this to date (and even if they attempted to there would be just as many locals attempting to stop the potential saboteurs). He told an anecdote of a planned sabotage of the race route by some poor farmers in the Pyrenees. They were having a rough trot with bears marauding their flocks, and the EU had just passed a law protecting the bears. This was to the economic misfortune of the farmers, some of whom were losing up to 100 sheep to the bears. So to make a statement they planned to disrupt the race to gain international exposure to their plight. Solution – send in Bernard Hinault to sort them out. He amicably explained why the tour must go on (being a former 5 time champion and farmer himself), and with the consumption of many a glass of pure Ricard sabotage was averted. Hinault, always the enforcer!

There were many other points discussed and I do not want to misquote Prudhomme in his honest discussions with us. But it was a real breathe of fresh air listening to a progressive and visionary sports administrator who was humble enough to recognise his own role in managing the tour. He recognised that he was merely the holder of the fort during this period in time and bearer great responsibility to the sport, his country, and his role to inspire the next generation. He has inspired me, and I am pumped to ride again tomorrow morning with some wind in my sails.

Merci Christian, and to Mike and SBS as well, for a wonderful evening and may some of your vision rub off on other sports administrators.

Christian Prudhomme - 2

Vive le Tour!

 

I brought my new MTB Steed Рthe VTT Рwith us on our recent camping trip to Patonga to let it rip properly for the first time. I was very much looking forward to seeing how it would handle and to get it properly dirty. The first long ride I had on it was on the road, and I realised that I had the seat up too high, almost the same position as what I had for my Road Steed. So I made a few minor adjustments to the bike before setting out. To get to Patonga we had to drive through the Brisbane Water National Park. Coming in on the road from Umina Beach and rounding the corner of Broken Bay we went steeply up to the ridge line in the national park. I could tell just from the gearing in the car that I would be climbing Рa lot. I marked the area that I was to explore for the first time on the park map below.

Brisbane Waters National Park map

Day One of Riding

The first day I set out after pitching up our tent. I didn’t realise how late it was when I set out, but it was after 17:30 and we were in the last week of daylight savings for the South Eastern coast of Australia. This would prove to be a daylight miscalculation on my part. I decided to pack my trusty new Canon Powershot G15 in the back pocket and chuck on the front and rear mud guards too. I knew it was going to be steep before I reached the trail, but not 1.6km at over 8% gradient – with some parts hitting over 14%. That was with less than 2km of warmup in the legs and lungs. I suppose this was the test for how well the new MTB Steed would climb. It performed impressively up the climbs, and the Shimano XT shifters did their job very well. It’s no mountain goat going up inclines (it definitely felt it heavier than my former hardtail XC bike), but with its short wheelbase for a dual suspension bike it is was at least a mountain lion. Once again, the bike is better than the engine (me) – for the moment! By the time I had hit the entrance to the trail, the sun was descending rapidly towards the horizon.

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It had rained most of that first day and the trails were puddled and damp. There was running water across every one of the firetrail water breaks, which meant getting dirty at every crossing. The mud guards would come into their own and did their job well, but it was still fun hitting the water at speed with the spray going everywhere. What I wasn’t so sure of was how well the new Maxxis Ikon tyres would hold, particularly in the loose but wet conditions. But the wheels and tyres have turned out to be quite solid, quickly regripping after my back wheel slid out and very sure footed.

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I realised from the GPS that I would run out of light before hitting Pearl Beach. So with the light fading I decided to take in the beauty of the National Park and capture a few shots of the surroundings. The views from this trail are beautiful and there are many natural features of large sandstone blocks, waterfalls, and running streams through the bush shrub.

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Even with a bit of mud, my new velo looks cool!

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Daylight very quickly disappeared as I turned around to head back to the campsite, and what greeted me at dusk were some of the locals. I saw two wallabies go across the trail, both in front and behind me. There was a superb lyrebird running around strutting its stuff when I got to the valley. And finally a couple of hundred metres into my return journey a grey kangaroo bounded across the trail and disappeared into the native shrub before I could get my eyes on it again. There was absolutely no chance of me snapping these animals in what was very near darkness.

Animal Count:

Swamp Wallaby Superb Lyrebird Eastern Grey Kangaroo

The scariest part of the ride though was not the return on the trail, but the descent back to the campsite down that incline that I rode up at the start. The miscalculation was that I forgot to chuck on a set of lights, thinking I would be riding in daylight. I was bombing it down the descent in pitch black darkness on a slippery road – and it was exhilirating (if not entirely stupid)! I decided immediately after I hit camp that I would return for a second run the next day.

Day Two of Riding

The next day was much brighter and drier. I set out a good hour and a bit earlier for this run, determined to reach Pearl Beach. I did a couple of warmup laps of Patonga village before hitting the climb out, which proved to be a good idea. The view from the ridge line on the trail was awesome as I was able to get my eyes off the path this time with it not being so wet.

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I was determined to get to Pearl Beach for this trip, and was duly rewarded with some spectacular rock and waterfall features.

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Finishing up at Pearl Beach was when I found the Crommelin Native Arboretum. I also got the chance to get some views in of the Northern Head of the Hawkesbury River from the Paul Landa Reserve, where you can also see across to Barrenjoey Head and the back end of Palm Beach.

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Descending down to Pearl Beach meant a trail climb back up to the ridge line for the same Patonga descent that I rode in darkness the day before. But at least this time it was dry and I could gather up a bit of speed to enjoy the drop in.

I mapped out the trails I rode below on the map in solid lines, with the first day getting only halfway to Pearl Beach. Next time I ride here, and there will be a next time because camping at Patonga is fun, I want to explore the trails on the Northern side of Patonga Drive (marked out as dotted lines). These look like a bit more climbing to get to the trail, but a longer trail as the reward. Next time I will also bring a few riding buddies with me to get dirty.

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I want to thank my wife for letting me hit the trails on the second day – which also happened to be our 5th wedding anniversary. What can I say, she is awesome and I love her to bits.

It makes me quite happy to be posting about my new arrival to the stable. I picked up just in time for Easter my replacement MTB steed, and it is awesome! I have finally got my hands on a BMC Fourstroke FS02 XT / SLX 2012 dual suspension beast. The first thing I did when I got it was ride over some curbs and jump some gutters on the way back to putting it on top of my car to take home.

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The paint job is the business and in line with cool Swiss graphic design. When I first saw the sales shots, I thought that the lime green was a bit wrong (green is not my colour). But now I have seen the lime green highlights, the subtle metallic grey, and the angular paint lines I have really taken it too heart. Not sure about the white colour on an MTB (mud and dirt magnet), but it is striking.

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I made sure that I up-specced it to match what I was replacing and take advantage of the high performing, but reasonably priced, Shimano XT components. In fact the only thing that is SLX about the bike is the front derailleur, which shifts just fine. It comes with a pretty decent spec sheet, and with my new Shimano XT MTB wheels and the Maxxis Ikons that are shod on them it will be a sweet ride! The Mavic Crossride wheelset it comes with will end up losing the Schwalbe shoes for a set of Michelin slicks so I can tow my little man or ride urban.

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I totally changed the cockpit to what I had managed to find comfortable after much trial and error – namely Oury clamped rubber grips and short PRO bar ends, not to mention the K-Edge Garmin out front mount. Fitting the speed and cadence sensor took some fiddling, particularly with the rear suspension mech, but I managed to get this installed.

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BMC’s whole Advanced Pivot System (APS) on the rear triangle is quite an impressive piece of cycling engineering. It looks quite robust, and appears to be slightly over-engineered – which gives me a lot of confidence. I can’t wait to test this on the trail, again, and again, and again.

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This is the first time I have owned a dual suspension bike, and it will take some work to dial in the front and rear suspension. I am missing the lock out feature for the front suspension forks that I had on my old bike, but I can get around that. The new Fox forks are very high quality, with the finishing on the metal being right up there. I can’t imagine what the Kashima coated forks are like. The only thing that doesn’t quite fit at the moment is the 720mm bar, as it feels way too wide. I guess I got used to 640mm 3T bar that I had on the old bike, and I might end up swapping this component out as probably the final up-spec for the new bike. But I will take it off-road first to see how it goes before I make up my mind.

I have decided to name him VTT, after the French word for mountain bike –¬†v√©lo tout terrain. I will call it a “he”, because no doubt he will contribute to some additional cycling scars at some point on my body. I still miss my old bike, but this new one has already got a special place in my heart. I took the photos of it before I had the chance to get it dirty, and this is probably the cleanest it is ever going to be. Now I am looking forward to some off-road spinning!

OK – I can’t hide the fact that I am a little bit excited. I will be getting a new MTB steed!

After the emotional rollercoaster of having my custom made from scratch MTB steed being stolen by some dodgy [#!{/?#$ insert expletives Рmultiple], I waited nervously for the insurance company to do the assessment and see if they could fix me up with a new ride. Having never had anything of value stolen before, it was uncharted territory for me. I did not  know how to deal with the guys from the insurance company and everything I had heard before was that insurance companies would do everything in their power not to pay the sum insured. I felt terrible writing up the claim form and attaching all the documents for the assessment, reliving all the memories in my head of putting the steed together. I think they were a bit shocked when I was able to provide them with a full specification of the bike Рand if you asked me over a beer I could probably recite it back to you, tyre valve and all. I had a receipt for pretty much all of the components too. In all, the claim assessment form was 15 pages long. But they came through, though they did note that mine was an unusual case as the steed was bespoke (no pun intended). In some respects I wish the [#$@%*+~ use different expletives this time] thief had stolen my road steed, it would have been a straight swap for a new model of the same ride.

Requirements for a replacement …

Here is where the next challenge commenced. There were two complications with my replacement requirements; 1.¬†it had to be a 26 inch wheel ride, and 2.¬†it had to come with QR skewers. If you know your bikes then this reads pretty straight forward (and you think to yourself hmmm…), but for the non-riding geeks here it is in more detail and why these two requirements created complications:

Complication #1 – 26 inch wheels

It seems that in the few short years from when my old bike frame I purchased was made (2009), the whole MTB world has flipped and invented new wheel sizes. This shouldn’t be a surprise to cyclists because from the time that Gary Fisher was creating custom MTBs back not long after I was born, mountain bikes have evolved in leaps and bounds. Innovations have included the evolution of rigid frames that then copped suspension forks, then the rear triangle copped a suspension rig too (and this whole suspension thing is getting uber complicated if you check out this system from Lapierre). Brakes have gone from caliper brakes to… V brakes to… disc brakes – and pretty soon these discs will be made of carbon, ceramic, and silica composites instead of metal. And wheels have gone from 26 inch to… 29ers to… 27.5 inch / 650B. Confused? Yep – me too! Here is a graphic that explains the sizing, and it is not as simple as measuring the diameter dimension of the wheel (this article explains it in detail)

Wheel Size - illustration

It would seem that the world is moving away from the wheel size that pretty much lead the growth in the sport so that riders can roll better. My challenge was that I had a second set of true off-road wheels with tubeless tyres being made up at my local bike store that set me back over $600 (mostly funded by my boss as part of a work bonus – give me MTB wheels instead of a ridiculously overpriced bottle of wine I said). And they are 26 inch wheels, which would go to complete waste on anything other than a bike that is made for this wheel size.

Complication #2 – Quick Release (QR) Skewers

The secondary purpose for my bike is to tow my son in his trailer when we go riding as a family. It is one of the main reasons I go recreational riding and requires a QR type axle on the rear so that I can fit the socket joint for his trailer. As this article from Bike Radar clearly states, “Gone are the days when all mountain bikes had 9mm quick-release skewers front and rear. At the front, 15mm and 20mm through-axles are now common, along with¬†135 x 12mm or 142 x 12mm setups out back.” What is behind this is that the thicker axle setups are stiffer and offer the rider more control, rather than flex.¬†This one like the first seems a bit of a ploy from the manufacturers to generate reasons for upgrading your ride, no matter how solid the mechanical principles are. Still didn’t change my requirements, I just want to use a set of these.

QR skewers

The Search has born Fruit!

I searched the local bike shops for what they had on offer and it was a bit concerning. Giant had moved their entire MTB range to 29ers. Trek were going all funky with 29ers as well and with some out there axle mounts that no doubt will sell them a few more expensive bikes. Specialized, Yeti, Cannondale, GT, Scott… more of the same. I was getting worried that the MTB universe had moved on from my needs. I was getting more worried that I would have to revert back to an alloy frame, a kick in the guts after waiting for years to get the green light to move into the world of MTB carbon. Then I went to Velosophy in Moore Park – and the heavens peaked open slightly. I spoke with Klara at the store and asked her about some of the BMC mountain bikes. She told me that the entire range doesn’t get shipped out to our antipodean shores, but she ran me through some of the models. Klara then told me that BMC were trying to get rid of last years stock and that there were some stonking bargains to be had (as it turned out I was significantly under-insured, I insured myself for the cost of the components which were purchased at anywhere between 40-60% off the original price i.e. I had built a $6,000 ride for just over $2,500). The one ride she know about was a BMC Fourstroke, though she did not have all the details. Klara said that she would call me back on Monday to find out the specs and if they met my requirements.

When I left the store, I was not expecting a call back at all. Poor customer service is a hallmark of Australian businesses. To my shock Klara called me back like she promised and had the details direct from the BMC sales rep. There was one missing specification (for the forks), and she said that she would follow this up the next day. Again Klara¬†called me back¬†and had provided me with the further specifications. After a bit of thought, maybe two minutes, I told Klara to get me that new bike and the insurance company would be in contact soon. It just goes to show you how taking care of your customer can reap you benefits. Sure the ride is a dual suspension, and not all the groupset components are to the same spec as what I previously had, but the sum of the overs and unders is pretty much spot on. Below is a photo from the internet of my new ride, and I can’t wait to take my new steed for a spin. I will pick it up later this week, which should give me a chance to get over the nasty bout of bronchitis I have contracted. Who knows,¬†it may even get a name. I may learn to love again – ha ha! Can’t wait!

BMC Fourstroke FS02 XT / SLX 2012

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